NIO Minister of State, Hugo Swire MP, has urged Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA to decide by the end of the month if the district council elections, scheduled for May 2011, are to be on the basis of 11 councils or the existing 26.
In a letter to the Environment Minister, Mr Swire said that the fact that an Order to give effect to the new local government boundaries had not yet been brought before the Assembly was “…a matter of some concern and urgent action is now required”.
The district council elections were due to be held in May 2009 but the Executive asked the then Government to delay them until May 2011 so that they could take place on the basis of the new 11 council model.
The programme to take this forward, agreed between the NIO and the Department of the Environment, required the early appointment of a District Electoral Areas Commissioner by the Secretary of State and an Order passed by the Assembly confirming the new boundaries in autumn 2009.
The Commissioner was appointed on 1 July 2009 but has been unable to commence substantive work on the grouping of wards because the Assembly has still not passed the Order.
The Minister told Mr Poots that it was still possible to hold the elections to 11 new Councils in May 2011 but a decision to bring the Order before the Assembly needed to be made before the end of the month otherwise planning for elections in May 2011 would have to be on the basis of the existing 26 councils.